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I have been thinking a lot about sarcasm. How many people use it while trying to be funny…and in it’s place, it may be, but all too often it goes a bit too far and causes damage. I looked up the definition and was a bit taken back:

Sarcasm:
1. the use of irony to mock or convey contempt:
2. the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny:
3.a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain:
4. a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual

The whole intent of sarcasm is to hurt or mock. Only 1 short statement about sarcasm is to be funny, while the rest is to put down another person.

A couple years ago I was reading The Screwtape Letter’s by C.S. Lewis and I remember this passage about laughter. It is probably the section that I remember the most about that book. The book is a collection of letters from a “Lead’ Demon as he instructs a subordinate to discourage, distract and bring defeat to the soul of a human man. The following is a passage on laughter.

 MY DEAR WORMWOOD…I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy.

You will see the [Joy] among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday…

Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us….it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field…The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction…it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame…

But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.

It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

Your affectionate uncle, SCREWTAPE

I had never thought of how the enemy of our souls could use laughter against us but how true it is. While reading this passage I remember instantly thinking of sarcasm. That flippant witty joke that pokes just a little fun at someone else and how damaging that can be even if that isn’t the intent.

I grew up with sarcasm. It was the way that we had fun, laughed, it was in our general conversation. I trust that the conscious motive behind it wasn’t to hurt one another, but in all honestly, the jokes were often at someone’s expense. When I was reading this book, I made an active choice, to start to stop using sarcasm. It has been a process to learn to think and speak with out it, towards others and towards myself. I haven’t made it completely and sometimes when I am around my family I fall back into that pattern of speaking, but I work on it.

The Bible has a lot to say about our speech. In 1 Corinthians 14:3 it reads, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and, comfort.” We are to “be holy in all manner of conversation:” 1 Peter 1:15. To be an “example of the believes, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” 1 Timothy 4:12. In Philippians 1:27 it says to “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ:…that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”. And in Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” To be careful with what words we say, Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider no that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine hear be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” And lastly but certainly not the last mention of it, James 1:19-20 “Wherefore, my beloved bretheren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

From these few scriptures we find that we are to be careful with what we say, to take a few seconds to think about and consider the words before we speak them. That every word is to build and edify one another and to not harm or hinder. What we say is an example to those around us of a true Christ-like life.

Sarcasm works among friends, spouses, family, saints, acquaintances and enemies. But it is most dangerous among those that are in fellowship. It can hurt and divide saints, spouses, and families. If it doesn’t lift up or edify, think twice before saying it, even if it is just a joke and you think they can take it.

Not only can we be sarcastic and flippant with others, but also with ourselves. We can make jokes, comments, at our own expense that demean or lower our worth. This isn’t an act of being humble, in fact it’s unfair and often untrue regarding our actual worth. It works like this, when someone complements us and our comment is one that would put ourselves down or minimize who/what we are or have done. The enemy can use this to discourage us and make us think we are not doing our best or are that we aren’t saved.

Don’t get me wrong, humor is good. Jokes can be funny. Irony and “sarcasm” in a pure sense (if it can be so) is ok. Can be useful and even a help. But it is when it crosses the line to causing hurt that it has gone to far. I don’t want to say that we can never laugh or joke around. But we do need to be considerate of others and what we are saying.

I am challenging myself once again to be careful in my thoughts and words about others and myself. That the statements are true and not mocking or harmful. Honesty is ok, consideration is a must, and laughter is needed, but harmful, digging, and insulting words are not.

“Only let your conversation be as it [exemplifies] the gospel of Christ:”…”[speaking] unto men [for] edification, and exhortation and, comfort”

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alone with God

It has been my desire and prayer for a while to draw closer to God. You ask, “Isn’t that every Christian’s desire?” It should be. But do we really act on that desire? Or do we just say it?

Yesterday one of the Bro’s at church testified to the same desire. He spoke how God told him, (and I paraphrase) “If that is what you want, do your part. Take more time to be with me. If you can spend hours online, you have time to spend with me. You want to draw closer, you read more, you pray more. I am here, you make the time to know me better.”

I too have heard God tell me this…take more time to spend with me. He said it again yesterday through testimony. I made a determination to put this into practice. Not to just say I want to draw closer, I need to read the Bible more, I need to pray more…but to do it. If I have to, I will make an appointment to spend the time with God. What I have done in the past is no longer enough for me. I desire a deeper relationship with God. To truly be one with Him and Him in me.

prayWhen I have prayed about the different things that I struggle with, the thought has come, if more time was spent in the Word and in Prayer, these “things” wouldn’t be such a trial. You would have more strength and a greater back bone to handle the temptations and situations presented by the enemy of souls. A benefit of drawing closer to God, is gaining the complete victory that has previously alluded me because of decisions I have made to please the flesh.

As I am structure or schedule oriented, I have made a plan. It will at least help get this started. While it may seem funny and one may think that it isn’t right to be so “organized” about it, but let the spirit move. Yes we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit, but God gave us a mind and free will. If this is how I am going to get my flesh under control and set time aside for God, then so be it. This is what I will do.

I am going to stBible-and-handsart a study in Romans. Read a little each day, pull out a nugget and meditate on it. I will also use one of the Streams in the Desert books as a supplemental reading. I want to specifically take time to pray for those at work and the day ahead before I walk in the door. This in addition to a morning prayer. I want to specifically pray and give thanks for my food. Yes I am faithful to be thankful. But sometimes I find myself just saying “Thanks for the food”. Again, there is nothing wrong with this. And I am not saying that there has to be a 10 min prayer at every meal, but I want to take more time and talk to God, not just at him. Not just out of form or repetition or habit, but to make a connection with him.

Since writing helps me process what I read and think, I shall share my journey. Starting with Romans 1.

Romans was written to Saints. To us. To those that are saved and living with out sin. Not to sinners. (Although there is good for them too)  Romans 1:7 reads “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…” The beautiful thing about the Bible is that it is current and applicable for us as saints just as it was to the Romans that Paul wrote to.

Paul starts his letter to the Romans with his commendations (vs 1-5), he testimony of where he came from. He follows this with a greeting and a desire to visit the saints (vs7-13). In this he mentions that he is looking forward to working with the saints to bring in a harvest. Ready to preach the gospel and not being ashamed of God’s work.

 

Paul is an exampannouncerle to us. Always ready to enter the work of God where needed. Always ready to speak of God. Not shrinking from duty or other opinions that might oppose God’s truth. Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Paul recognizes the power that is in the gospel and how it can change a soul and give life. This is what he wants to bring to those in and around Rome.

We too need to take this example, to not be ashamed, but to recognize the great power in God and the gospel, the good news about Christ and spread that to those around us. Whom have we spoken to about Christ recently? Have you shared what God has done form you? Have you said a word about Christ? Are you ashamed or are you willing to be lead by the spirit and speak of the gospel?

 

In the Wednesday night Bible Study we started reading in 1 Samuel. We can learn a lot from Hannah and Samuel.

I was first impressed at Hannah’s attitude after Eli spoke to her in the temple.

1 Samuel 1:17-18 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.

At the beginning of the feast Hannah wasn’t able to eat or take part in any way so great was her burden. As soon as Eli spoke to her, granting her the petition of her heart through God, her countenance was not more sad. She was content and happy even, trusting that God would give her the child of her heart. You could not have known the burden that she carried as the left for home.

I was encouraged by Hannah’s song of praise at the beginning of chapter 2. She speaks of the Lord that giveth and taketh away, the one that provides and grants blessings, the rock through all times, the all knowing one that knows just what his people need. Through her trial of wanting a child, the grief of not having one, and the joy of receiving the blessing, she never once believed that God would fail her.

The next even that stood out to me was when the Lord spoke to Samuel. At this time Samuel didn’t know the Lord personally and Eli wasn’t the best example. When the Lord began to speak to Samuel, we can tell that he was listening. He might not know what or who he heard, but he was listening and quick to respond to the call. When Eli told Samuel to answer the Lord, he wasn’t skeptical but just obeyed. In those two simple things, listening and obeying the strength of Samuel’s service to God was built.

1 Samuel 3:10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

As I was reading this I thought, am I always listening, waiting for the call? Are my ears open for the call of God? Do I respond right away to his call? Do I obey quickly or does he have to call several times before he gets my attention?

 

Let us learn from Hannah and Samuel:
-When we bring a petition to God, we can leave it with him and trust that he will provide for the need or desire. We don’t need to continue to be sad or bothered about the burden; we can be content and trust God.
-Listen for God’s voice and quickly follow his instructions. If we have a listening ear and an obedient heart God will strengthen us in him and our relationship will grow.

It is a new year with a new look, but the message is still the same.

God is a big God and he has a plan for each and every one of us. His desire is that we live Holy or with out sin. We in ourselves cannot do this, but he made the way possible when he gave his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. When we accept Christ as our Savior and turn from our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and provide us with strength and grace to live sin free. It definitely is the best life.

I haven’t been as faithful to this blog in the past few months as I would like. I am sorry for that, but I have a plan for the future.

First – On Thursday night at church we were challenged to make a list of those things in our life that need to change this year for us to draw closer to God.

My list:
–          increase time in studying God’s word
–          increase prayer time
–          don’t be as quick to judge people
–          be more willing to help those in need
–          search for and take opportunities to share the Gospel
–          be careful to not get comfortable in Salvation but keep the challenge and excitement fresh
–          increase of patience
–          don’t procrastinate with God’s work

This list may grow as the year continues, but I plan to use this blog in a why that it holds me accountable for gaining the victory in these areas. As I have victory or challenges I will share my studies on and in these areas.

I challenge you to make a list. How can God better use you this day? What things might you need to change for God to use you? Seek God and ask him to search you. He has the power to help you draw closer to him.
Second – I don’t think I have read the Bible cover to cover. I know I have tried and often would get bogged down in the “begats”. This year I am challenging myself to read the Bible completely. It will be apart of my daily study, but it won’t take its place. A friend of mine had a list of the scriptures to read so that the Bible can be read chronologically. This appealed to me. I found that list and will post each day what those scriptures are so that you can follow along. We can discuss the different points that we read. I invite you to read along and join in on the discussion.
Third – At the end of last year, we moved some of our Bible study teachers around at Church. There was a need for a teacher in one of the elementary classes. I was asked to take this position. As we go through this year I will share the lessons that are brought to the kids as well as the lessons they bring to me. I believe we can learn from all ages. Christ told us that we needed to be as the little children. In the Children’s Bible class, we are making a chain of things we are thankful for and we learn verses. I will share those also. I believe thankfulness and God’s word are good things to learn at a young age. Feel free to add your “thankfuls” and learn the memory verses with us.
Join us this year as we draw closer to God and share how he helps us in our daily walk with him.

Last week in the Bible discussion group on Wednesday we spoke about silver and how it is used in the Bible.

1. In the days of Christ, 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave. That was the value that was put on Jesus. He was worth no more than a slave to Judas and the Pharisees that bought him. However it was that “worthless human”, Jesus Christ that paid for our sins. He alone was the acceptable sacrifice. 1 Peter 1:18 and 19 reads “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” We were bought by the priceless sacrifice of Jesus whom the world deemed worthless.

2. Silver a costly and precious metal is used as a representation for the value of wisdom and understanding through out the Old Testament. We read this in: Proverbs 2:3-5 “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” 3:13-14 “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” 8:10-11 “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.“ 16:16 “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” Let us value those things that need to be valued. Wisdom and understanding are not just for those that are older and have followed God for years, it is something that all saints need to strive to increase.

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